So, I was sitting in some vinyl or cheap plastic-covered chair, in a low-lit room, surrounded by a few strangers. I had my sleeve rolled up. I was ready for what was coming.
Then she came by. Set up all her equipment. Rubbed some disinfectant on my arm. And after making sure everything was a go, inserted the needle into my skin.
I felt that familiar pinch as the metal penetrated through my epidermis and into my vein, and started drawing my blood like a thirsty little vampire.
And so began my latest whole blood donation to the Red Cross. My 26th in total since first giving back in 1999 in my junior year of high school.
What does this have to do with the fact that tattoos are stupid, beyond the misdirection? There’s the needle connection, of course. But it’s also the fact that most people like to ink themselves to commemorate something of significance. A person, like a partner. A date. A symbol representing a group of some kind. Or maybe just a cool design they like. Whatever they put, it usually means something important to them.
Just like I think donating blood is important. I’ve been giving blood for almost a quarter century. I actually really enjoy doing it. It’s the same to me as any valued relationship. But as much as I like helping out the nation’s blood supply, and for as long as I’ve been doing it, I would never consider stamping my body with a Red Cross logo. Or printing something like “GALLON DONOR” on my shoulder, with a big bolt of lightning going through it.
And why not? Well, because that would look tacky and stupid. It would demean and cheapen the altruistic act, as far as I’m concerned. It would also be unneccessary. Who exactly am I trying to inform about my blood donation activities? Myself? Am I going to forget that I donate, and therefore need the constant reminder? Or would I be getting it in hopes of signifying to the world that I donate blood, in hopes of convincing others to do the same? That’s something I do already. I’ve featured it in a previous article. I bring it up in conversations when appropriate, such as when discussing hobbies or volunteer work. It’s not necessary to carry around a permanent sign on my flesh that screams “ME, YES ME, DONATES BLOOD, AND YOU SHOULD TOO!” I’m not a blood donation TV evangelist, or something.
Plus, a tattoo would disqualify me from donating blood for at least three months if I got it in a state that does not regulate tattoo facilities. Or potentially disqualify me permanently if I were to pick up something nasty like Hepatitis while getting the tattoo.
If I got a Red Cross tattoo, let’s say, on my neck or hand, or some visible area not often covered by clothing, most people would probably think I’m insane. But if it were a skull, or a bird, a snake, or a rainbow, that’d be A-okay. Those are “normal” type tats. People get all kinds of such tats on those areas, and nobody bats an eye.
Why is that? Because unfortunately, tattoos have been normalized in society. So much so that NOT having one is unusual. I can remember a time when only bikers, convicts, and military types got tattoos. And usually they only had a few. Now everyone’s got them. And people rarely stop at one. Even nerds and dorks are getting full sleeve tats. I used to work with a guy who had tats of horror movie villains all over his body. He had Michael Myers standing at the top of the stairs in Halloween (the pic shown at the top of this linked article) on one bicep. Freddy Krueger on another. I think Jason Voorhees was on him somewhere, too. He was 26 years old. I’m sorry, but why the fuck does a full-grown man need to garishly exclaim to the world in the form of permanent ink on his skin that he likes mainstream horror movies so much? Does he think that makes him unique or special? Judging by the box office returns and cultural impact of the three franchises represented by those characters, EVERYONE likes those movies. You’re not the only one, dude.
I mean, with that kind of passion for horror movies, I’d expect the guy to be a writer/director of horror movies himself. Or maybe an actor in one. But he wasn’t. He was just a guy working in a shitty market research company for $29k a year. Just like me at the time.
I don’t care that it’s 2023 next month and everyone and their grandma has a tattoo. I will never not think they look stupid and unnecessary. In fact, I’ll go even further. I have never once ever seen a tattoo that I thought looked attractive, unique, or creative.
But what about those 3D tattoos? Or those colorful, freshly-inked ones? Or the ones done by top tattoo artists that are one of a kind?
Let me explain to you exactly what a tattoo is to me with a little story.
I had just pulled into a Home of Economy when I noticed a brand new top of the line Ford F-250 King Ranch parked in the lot. This truck was jacked up, had camoflauge trim, a custom olive green color, and a creamy leather interior. It had the works. It likely cost somewhere close to $60,000+ with all the modifications. I am not a truck guy, but even I know a customized King Ranch means something. You order a truck like that, and you’re probably waiting six months for it to arrive. This truck was somebody’s baby. It looked immaculate.
Except for the bumper sticker on the back that read, in all upper-case black letters, against a white background: “I’M ONLY DRIVING THIS FAST BECAUSE I REALLY HAVE TO POOP!”
That right there is what a tattoo is to me. A trashy, low-class, contemptible, 100% stupid bumper sticker.
“But I got my tattoo for (insert deep heartfelt explanation that for some reason brings meaning to your life, and that I’m supposed to agree with to make you feel better)!”
Nah, see you’re wrong. You didn’t get that butterfly tat on your shoulder because you just love flying insects. I don’t see a degree in lepidopterology framed on your wall, I see a Natty Light poster. You got it because you’re dumb and impressionable, and you thought it looked cute and would make you fit in more with your equally dumb friends. You might as well hang a big neon sign around your neck that reads: “I am desperate for approval, can’t think for myself, and willing to scar my body to fit in with the crowd.”
And that sleeve tattoo of flames going down your arms? What the fuck is that supposed to tell me? That you’re some kind of badass? That if you started punching you’d swing so fast it would look like your arms were on fire? No, all that tells me is you know how to waste money on dumb shit. My local part-time librarian associate has a sleeve tattoo. I know she can’t make more than $20k a year. A typical sleeve tattoo can cost thousands of dollars. So it’s likely she spent at least 10% or more of her annual pre-tax income on a vomitous mess of pre-Millennium kids cartoon-themed ink, including a piss poor rendering of Rainbow Brite. I don’t care how much Proust she reads. She is a dumbass.
Look, you can justify them all you want. You can come up with any reason you can about why they’re meaningful to you. I don’t care. Tattoos are stupid, and you are stupid for having them.